From 1997 to 2007, Spain suffered from major cases of political corruption associated with local urban development. To analyse their causes, this article examines the institutional mechanisms designed to monitor and control the performance of local policy-makers and to ensure they operated independently from private influence. It also analyses their actual effectiveness with reference to particular cases of local corruption unveiled during that decade. The Spanish case shows that local representatives had a large amount of power in distributing financial gains within the municipality, but faced little pressure to account for their actions. It argues that insufficient control mechanisms on the activities of local representatives from 1997 to 2007 can adequately explain the intensity and spread of local corruption in Spain.